Working Girl – By Arinzechukwu Patrick

 Backseat yarns about the life of a Lagos runs girl.

Wazobia FM threw back Christopher Nusa Ohenhen’s hit song “Dupey” on the car radio as Afo drove around the tarnished roads of mainland Lagos. The rhythmic sound of the old school instrumentals boomed softly from the car speakers and Afo bobbed his head. The song was about the celebrated wealth of a prominent Italo who was said to sponsor other young women to follow her very lucrative example, because in Lagos—In west Africa, a prostitute is seen as a vital part of society that does duties deemed useful to the community, and so, therefore, they are viewed with a certain degree of deference.

Afo was a young Yoruba Taxi driver in Lagos, and unlike most Taxi drivers who began work at the early hours of the Lagos morning in a bid to benefit from the rush hour period, Afo slept with most of his days, or frolicked and spent quality time with his newly born son, and also helped his wife in the small kiosk he opened for her just in front of their face-me-I-slap you house in Mushin—Only at night did he go out to drive his Taxi.

Afo started off at Mushin where he lived and drove through to Yaba and then followed through until he got to the Lagos Bridge, and then from then on, he connected to the bearable roads that led to the edifices of the Lekki Phases environs.

 Afo drove only at night because he made very good money from driving working girls popularly known in Lagos as runs girls-He was mostly booked every night until the wee hours of the morning. Not the “toutou two shillings” girls that charged the very low rate for sex, nor the “truck park or junction-town” prostitutes who hung around motorways like Allen Avenue—rich-rich Italos, home-based and international. Most of these women were students who saw it as an intense saving period until their school resumed or the ones who did it as a means to put themselves through school. Around June to August, in Lagos, there was always a noticeable influx of young students from various part of the continent- these women spent their summertime working as prostitutes and then go back only when school resumed in September.

 Like it is with every job, Afo sometimes found his distasteful. He loved the exposure he got from driving around Lagos, but if he does say so himself most of the girls that sat at the backseat of his car were God-God awful characters, bad-mannered and most times very uncouth and condescending. They stood Afo outside in his cab for hours waiting for them under the scorching Lagos sun as they sipped martini royale and frolicked inside the pristine houses of Lagos big men, some stingy ones tip him poorly and littered his cab with all sorts of wrappers of food they bought and ate in traffic. It annoyed Afo, but naturally, he kept his cool, acted friendly and minded his business.

“Afo abeg abeg-abeg help me call that gala wey dey pursue that danfo!  Buy me five, abeg and find yogurt and bottle water.”

“Mtcheww”, Afo hissed and looked through his rearview mirror and eyed the girl at the back

“Afo abeg, please don’t let that gala go I’m really hungry, haven’t ate anything.”

 Afo had noticed that the women were always hungry- they ate like they hadn’t eaten for weeks, ravenous like hyenas- they laughed and talked like that too, raucously, especially when they talked on the phone with their girlfriends or lovers. They all seemed the same to Afo when he looked at them through the rearview mirror, they all had that gleam in their eyes that were only temporal, a glow that stayed for a while and died after the moment passed, and the rest was filled with the normal humdrum existence of being a working girl, filled with the regular stress of late-night clubbing and date nights, and early morning walk of shame and occasional necessary embarrassment given to payment defaulters.

 Afo wasn’t just a driver to these women- he served as fights referee too, whatever fight, boxing, gidigbo, you name the fight. Many a time he got injured from a heel to his face, or a belt, or a handbag, he had even stepped in front of a gun to prevent murder. He was also a bank teller man and cash depositor, delivery man, organizer of those small-small drugs the girls used to social lubricate, Marijuana especially, and he always had them stored in his glove compartment. The job wasn’t an easy job- it was not just about trips abroad and flashy clothing, the girls really put in work.

 Afo had a girl he called his favourite, Kassie, she was different, though, she had her moments, especially when Afo delayed her, she hated late arrivals.

“Always on time, Afo, I have told you always on time, it is not why I treat you so nicely, I work with time so I hate to wait and waste.” Kassie was way nicer than the other girls, a decent girl- Afo thought it was unfortunate she was ever in such line of business and treated her with more courtesy, even called her madam sometimes.

“My madam how you dey today?” Afo teased Kassie as he sat on the bonnet of the car while waiting outside her house gate to pick her up.

“Who be your madam, abeg come drive me make we dey go.”

Afo laughed, and then they got in the car and drove off. 

 Afo met Kassie through a client of his, Bose. One midnight he was driving around Ozumba Mabadiwe Avenue when he got a text from Bose with the location of where to go and pick up Kassie, and a description of her. When he got there he was surprised to see the most beautiful girl he had ever laid his eyes on. She was standing outside the Silverbird galleria. Box braids were her hairdo (listening to conversations of the women in his car, Afo had familiarized himself with certain words), a maxi dress and a very big Black Handbag on her right hand. On her left hand was a paper bag with a pastry logo on it. Afo parked and honked twice and the girl looked up from her blackberry phone, waved at him and moseyed over.

“Are you Afo?” she asked through the window of the passenger side.

“Yes.”

“I’m Kasiobi but call me Kassie, Bose’s friend, nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine,” Afo said and quickly leaned in the back to open the door.

 Kasiobi opened the door and dropped her large handbag, and then entered instead into the passenger’s seat. She opened the paper bag and took a meat pie which she ate gently.  After which She let out a long moaning sound like a pigeon “This is so good, Afo, you should have some.” she offered him a meat pie from the bag he took one out while keeping an eye on the road.

 Afo had been driving all night and he needed something to eat. He smiled as he bit into the meat pie and thought about how nice Kassie was as he chewed, she was different she was from most of the girls he was used to, even Bose wasn’t as polite like that, or even kind, he thought to himself.

“Thank you very much,” Afo said, “you had no idea how hungry I had been, I haven’t eaten a thing all night long.”

“Tell me about it, not just that, my feet hurt in these shoes I had been standing in, I also need to take a very long ass shower before I fucking lose it.”

Afo laughed and almost choked on his meat pie and Kassie apologized quickly “I’m sorry, I have just had a very stressful night, you can’t imagine right now, and I need to get some sleep.”

“No problem at all, I think I can relate, you know I left my house by Eleven P.M., it’s four A.M. now and, after I drop you off I still have some other places to go before I get home, later in the day I still have to wake up and go out to service my car, so…” he sighed.

“You have a wife?”

“And a child, he’s just six months old.”

“I hope you get to spend time with him.”

“I do, a lot.”

“That is very good, Afo, I try and get to spend time a lot with my family too.”

 They kept silent the entire ride to Bose’s house but Afo felt very comfortable in Kassie’s presence. They exchanged numbers and pleasantries after he dropped her off at Bose’s gate. In no too long a time they became good friends.

“Afo come and pick me up I have to go to Bukka to get food for me and my girls, Afo how are you, have you ate today, Iyawo nko-bawo family?”  

 Kassie was Igbo but could oscillate easily and fluently between Yoruba, Igbo and English as she spoke. Afo loved her diction. She seemed very learned, very bright and intelligent. He had with her lots of conversations; Kassie seemed to know a thing or two about everything. They talked about issues concerning the government to what was really hip, and family. Kassie liked to talk about her family a lot. She had three brothers and her mother and father. Her younger brother, Chiadika had just finished secondary school and was to go to the university, her other brothers were still in primary school. Her mother didn’t really work, and her father worked for the government for thirty-five years but got duped on his pension fund, he dabbled in a thing or two to put food occasionally on the table but he didn’t have that concrete thing he woke up to do to provide daily bread for his family, he was beaten about life having worked with two degrees but had no pension to show for it. Kassie wore his pants.

 Another reason Afo liked Kassie was that she dressed exotic, and she smelled ever so sweetly, she stayed and went to the nicest places he had ever seen. She was also very transparent, her letter B was B, and you never met that kind of person too often in his kind of business. Kassie told lies, but it was about her being done dressed up.

“Kassie,” Afo calm voice spoke into the electric bell “I’m outside waiting for you.”

The electric buzzer sounded and out came Kassie’s bird like voice from the speakers “give me fifteen minutes, I’m just about to finish up with my make-up.”

But Afo waited for what seemed like two hours until she came out grinning.

“I’m so sorry, I had just taken my bath, I didn’t want you to be angry that I forgot our appointment, I will buy you something, don’t worry.”

Afo griped “It’s just because it’s you.”

“But do you like my dress?”

Afo nodded and Kassie smiled, and then they got in and drove off.

 Kassie also needed Afo, from time to time, to go over to her parent house to drop off items, most times the money or food, sometimes to bring her brothers over to spend the weekend with her. Afo stayed very close to where Kassie’s family lived, about thirty minutes’ drive down long unbearable and tattered roads. Her family lived in an uncompleted building in a swampy area with all the doors, roof, and windows in place, no pipes laid anywhere around the house and no manhole dug around too, it was easy to assume they had no water or a waste system. They fetched from a nearby well and then they passed waste inside a polythene bag and threw it into the swamp in front of them. The house was theirs, though- on a land Kassie’s father managed to acquire in his hay days. Afo had never been inside- the most he had been was close enough to call Chiadika on the phone to say he was stood outside their house with items for them, so he never knew how the inside looked. Even when he brought Kassie over herself to spend the weekend or a month hiatus from being a working girl, she invited him inside a lot but Afo never entered inside.

Kassie took care of her family as much as she could. Naturally, she was caring to everybody.

 Afo listened to a lot of women jibber a lot in his cab about mostly money or properties or food or trips abroad. They wanted mixed kids who had thirty-two inches curly hair and golden olive skin and spoke eight languages, played the violin and also the cello and piano, they all wanted to live in Europe or America finally with their wealthy European or Black American husbands who didn’t earn fifty thousand naira monthly, most of them just wanted to be stay home mother living off the wealth of a man they ensnarled. To them it was a fight, a sexual chase to the top where the good life was, every man was a rung strategically positioned, and a faster way up the social ladder. They hoped some of the services they rendered which included making home-cooked meals- familiar surrounding for wealthy men to relax, conversations and sex may in some way lead to a long term relationship and then also marriage.  But Kassie had plans to save up intensely for school so she could graduate and work in the real world. There was this look in her eyes that said she did everything she did distastefully, but she put up a front. She wouldn’t fight for anything, so most times when she was treated badly she sobbed gently in Afo’s cab all the way back home, and snapped at Afo when he tried to make conversations to cheer her up. Only one time did she opened up to him.

“He gave me a cheque of two hundred thousand naira knowing fully well the banks only pay a hundred and fifty thousand, he duped me, I went back to him and politely asked him to change it for me, you know like one human being to another, maybe give me fifty in cash and the rest in cheque and he told me I would have sex with him again.”

“Did you know the bank would reject the cheque?” Afo asked.

“No, if I did I wouldn’t have collected it from him that day, and he knew, he is such a fucking bastard, God would punish him for me because I really needed that cash.” she began to sob.

The week after the cheque incident and Kassie breaking down in Afo’s cab, she was unavailable and incommunicado, for days she was hard to get to, when she finally picked up Afo’s phone calls she only promised to call him back sooner, this went on for days and day and Afo became really worried, he called most of her friends he knew but none of them had seen her too or knew what was up, he was scared that something bad had happened to her like it was popular with the job, until one random day Kassie called Afo and booked an appointment.

 That night as Afo drove Kassie in his car- she was bubbling with excitement and seemed really happy

“What is it?” Afo asked her

“I’m finally leaving, with my brother”

Afo was really happy when she told him she was finally moving to Ghana to study, and preparations for the journey was what made her so busy and unavailable, she had managed to scarp around for the last bit of money she needed.

“I am really happy you are finally moving out of Nigeria, this life no suit you at all, you are such nice girl, Kassie.”

“Thanks, Afo, for everything you did for me.”

“You make my job very interesting and you are kinder than the rest, really you have no idea, thank you much too, I have even tell my wife and kid about you”

 On the day Kassie and her brother, Chiadika were to travel, Afo woke up as early as he could and drove over to her parents’ house and took them to the Bus Park. He lingered until they called their bus schedule on the public address system and then they boarded and left.

Then he drove home to his wife and son.

 The first thing that caught Chiadika’s attention when he woke up from a tired sleep was the bright and welcoming lights of the magnificent Accra mall along the Tema expressway. The luxurious bus stopped for some passengers going to nearby areas like Splintex, the Legon areas to alight, and so he had a lot of time to marvel at the magnificent structure of the complex, the large compound, all the exotic cars that drove in and drove out, and the beautiful people that trotted into it through all of its three entrances. It was beyond beautiful. He nudged his elder sister, Kassie, who was fast in a tired sleep beside him and when she woke up he signaled slightly at the mall, “we are here” he whispered so as not to sound like Johnny-just-come to most of the passengers who he knew were students returning back, and since he was just about to start, he felt slightly inferior and didn’t want to compound his feelings by being embarrassed about himself— by suggesting the idea that he had never been to a mall before. Kassie grinned groggily at him and he smiled back at her.

 It had really been a long journey from Nigeria that lasted almost the whole day, crossing from the borders of Seme down to Aflao which was the last and final border. After getting thoroughly searched and stamped by the Ghana immigration service, Chiadika carried his and Kassie’s luggage back into the boot of the luxurious bus and hurried back into the bus to continue watching the Nollywood movie the chaperon put as on road entertainment. He fell into a sleep shortly after, a sleep that lasted until the bus stopped at the mall.

 The second thing Chiadika noticed about Ghana were the bright lights, the city was well lit like a Christmas tree and it formed a pattern in his eyes, coming from Nigeria where constant electricity power at night was a myth, not to the exaggerated extent of a whole city having it at the same time, a transformer would have spark off or exploded and then there would be total blackout for about a year.

 Chiadika was electrified, he couldn’t sleep anymore, he was too pumped and couldn’t wait for the bus to get to the park, he couldn’t even watch the movie anymore, he kept his eyes glued outside the window and stared at the shops that weren’t closed, even at that time of the night, and the cars that swished past, people that walked on the streets and partied in pubs.

 “We are finally arriving at our caprice park and we would like to thank God for journey mercies” the chaperone’s voice boomed from the public address system, “kindly check your seats, under and above for your belongings and ensure you leave nothing behind, Akwaaba” he cleared his throat again and French boomed out of the speakers “Nous sommes enfin arriver notre parc de caprice et nous comme à Dieu merci pourvoyage compassions de bien vous vérifier vos sièges, sous et au-dessus de vos effets personnels et s’assurer vous laisserait rien derrière, Akwaaba”

 One after the other, all the passengers alighted from the bus with their bags and hand luggage- they moaned and took all the pleasure in stretching tired legs, and yawned until their jaws almost snapped. The Taxi drivers had first dibs and dove at them

“chale where you dey go, you make ready, make I drive you go?” most of them said in their scrappy Pidgin English

 Later on came the hotel staffs who advertised rooms for the night for those who didn’t have anywhere to pass the night, and then recharge cards and sim vendors too.

 Kassie who had already bought an already registered Mtn sim card at the border contacted the man, Mr. Kobi who was in charge of receiving them, to inform him of their arrival into the capital and at the park- he was also the Agent responsible for getting her the admission into the Federal university college in Accra. She was able to get the agent’s contact through Chiadika, who in turn got it from a girlfriend he met on twitter. Kassie was really excited to travel, after being a working girl for years and saved intensely life finally presented an opportunity. Apart from the diploma Kassie acquired from a polytechnic in Abuja, she still wanted to broaden the horizon of her educational qualifications- she also needed to get away from a lot of things.

 Kassie needed to run away from a bitter past of her female friends who wanted her head for polytechnic yarns, the many men she had come in contact with in almost all parts of the country where she was invited as an escort, or a short term girlfriend for a rapper, or a senator, or whoever was wealthy. She hoped to change her location and become brand new, according to the Igbo proverb that said: ‘Ashawo changie location ya wuo chassis’

 It was in Kassie’s first semester in poly that she was introduced to the concept of the fact that men would pay for sex until they were broke or dead—and more for a girl of her golden sun kissed skin complexion—by a friend. Before then, she was just a regular girl in school who wore first grade okrika clothes, made her hair with the cheap darling yaki weave, ate at bukas, rode okada and minded her business.

 It all started from Bose, the tall ebony skinned slender girl with the fuck me eyes and lashes that fluttered false and was highlighted by heavy mascara- she was from Port Harcourt and as expected a “sabi” girl. Bose and Kassie become friends through group work. It was, at first, just a regular friendship but trained eyes could liken it to the one of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Bose had the nous of a glamor queen, she was acclimated to dressing in flashy exotic clothes and having the finest things, she knew the latest poly gossip about what the big girls on campus did, the entertainment industry, fashion, scintillating details of one night stands with rich senators for large amounts of money, musicians who had taken her on shopping sprees, footballers, movie directors, all because they just want to have a taste of what she was willing to offer. “The good girls only get the fools” she said on several occasions.

On occasions Bose took Kassie out with her to prove her stories were not fables, she fixed Kassie with clothes and shoes to wear, a handbag, horse hair weave and good make up, buttered and peppered her up. It was from there that Kassie got her first hook up, with Onyekachi SA money (because most of his clients were from South Africa), the light skinned yahoo boy from Westminster in owerri who drove a dark green Toyota baby boy. It was supposed to be a hook up and a one night stand but it became a relationship.

 Onyekachi was the one who gave Kassie the first taste of the good life and what it was all about, the expensive hotels in town, shoes, clothes and bags, hair paid for by his juicy South African connect fraud money. Away with the Okrika bend-down-select clothes, he made her accustomed to finer things, and being driven around in an air-conditioned car instead of the Okada rides she was used to. There was the large amounts of money too, the root of all her problems. It was like the domesticated carnivorous animal who tasted blood for the first time, it went to the brain like heroin through the nose and they were instantly hooked. Onyekachi was even just a test phase and the test proved everything.

 There was a demand for more in Kassie and a need to supply in Bose, in other to keep up with the lifestyle. Bose brought the clients and for that she got a twenty percent cut from whatever the client paid no negotiations. From there on Kassie got to meet other girls who were into similar runs and made friends with them, girls who introduced her to other vices and also gave her clients to run to, and in return she gave them their twenty percent cut. Soon, having accumulated a broad spectrum of male friends from running the four walls of the country, being again that Kassie was of a very light skin and intelligent to add to it, she became very popular and well sort after by men who sometimes just need someone intelligent to talk to, or spend the night with doing nothing but theorizing and exchanging ideas. In no time Kassie was an independent hustler who also gave out clients and got percentages in return. It was through these earnings that she was able to pay for her fees and house rent in polytechnic, as well as took care of other menial bills, looked approachable and attractive, and owned the latest toys. It was also how she supported her family in the little way she could.

 Kassie was closer to Chiadika more than anyone else, he knew all her secrets and he guarded them with the dedication of the knight’s watch. He knew her in and out. And so when their mother, Ugonna, queried Kassie on how she got most of the things she saw in her possession—a brand new phone bought by a lover, a large cheque in her mother’s name, extravagant food items and designer wears—Chiadika had Kassie’s back with a fast explanation their mother always seemed to buy. Kassie called Chiadika her handbag. He loved her and loved to be around her so much because of her influence, he got a first class ticket to an adventurous life most of his age mates would have had to wait six or seven years of their lives to experience. Chiadika met a lot of people first hand through Kassie, dined and wined with the best because they thought his sister was the most beautiful girl they had ever seen. He got small gifts too,  small-small engunje back handed to him for being the “soji” brother who looked the other way, the free hotel room he most times camped in, and Kassie’s female friends who thought he was handsome and wanted him for themselves.

                                                             ***

 Mr. Kobi called and said he was just outside the complex of the luxurious bus park waiting with a taxi cab that would take Kassie and Chiadika to a cheap hotel where they will spend the night. Kassie walked outside the complex to spot him, while Chiadika watched their bags. Kassie found Mr. Kobi in the shadows at a corner just outside the gate. As he stepped into the bright florescent street light, his skin showed a milky brown like the mud sand when rain fell and gullied the earth in Enugu and Anambra state, slender and tall. He and the taxi driver—who was the exact opposite of him, short and really dark skinned that he blended completely into the night—, together he and Mr. Kobi and Chiadika carried their bags into the Taxi cab, and then they drove off.

 On their way Mr. Kobi explained the concept of the Ghanaian currency to Kassie and Chiadika, he sat at the front seat and they were at the back.

“One cedi is equal to fifty naira of the Nigerian currency,” Mr. Kobi said, “two cedi is to one hundred naira, and so forth.” He laughed “Basically any denomination of the Naira is twice that of the Ghanaian cedi, or more in some cases”

 Chiadika and Kassie both felt tired and drained, and so they listened and said nothing, not even a nod. Not after the eighteen hours road trip.

 It was midnight but most of the shops were still open on the streets, crowds of people watched soap operas on small televisions strategically placed in container shops, pubs open played loud music with people who danced and sang along with green bottles of beer in their hands. Mr. Kobi gave the Taxi cabman directions, he was taking Kassie and Chiadika to a place he called Nii boi town.

 “How was your journey,” Mr. Kobi asked from the front where he sat

“It was really stressful and tiring” Kassie answered him offhandedly

Mr. Kobi laughed “that is what all of you say”

 All of you he meant were the number of Nigerians that suddenly trooped into Accra to study in one of any of their private university colleges affiliated to the government universities, as the Asuu strike in Nigeria wasn’t looking to come to an end soon. Benin republic got its fair share of the Nigerian students export, Ukraine, Malaysia, Dubai, Egypt, London and China too.

 The Taxi cab came to a halt in front of a building painted yellow. They all alighted and Mr. Kobi paid the taxi cab—after he brought out the bags in his trunk—and then he led Chiadika and Kassie inside the building of the hotel through a heavy glass door that had the sign “push” on it. When they get to the front desk Mr. Kobi stopped and turned to Kassie, he gave her a look like she knew what to do already.

“We have come with mostly Dollars and Naira” Kassie said, “and since most of the local bureau de change are closed at this time of the night…” she sighed

 Mr. Kobi smiled and nodded his head “That is very true, I forgot about that” he said,  and then took out his wallet to settle the hotel bills for the night, it was the least he could do after he charged the Nigerian foreigners exorbitant fees to run an admission in his own country.

 The hotel room key was labeled five. Mr. Kobi led Kassie and Chiadika down another corridor beside the front desk and stopped by a room with an old air-conditioner that groaned noisily and dripped water profusely on the outside. He inserted the key and turned the lock twice, and then he pushed the door open.

 The room was cool up to freezing point. It was a single big bedroom scarcely furnished with a wooden table with two white towels folded neatly on it, and a chair, a small monochrome Panasonic television locked in a corrugated iron frame. In the bathroom was an old but neat bathtub with a bucket and a bowl in it, cheap soap and perfume on the vanity mirror, a big bed dressed in plain white sheets and two pillows in similar plain white pillowcases.

“Feel at home” Mr. Kobi said, he still stood at the door with his hand on the nob while Chiadika and Kassie sauntered around the room, “I would be leaving now, but I would be back tomorrow morning to take you guys around town, and to your schools”

“Thanks for everything” Kassie said and stretched her hand for Mr. Kobi

 He took it and smiled, and then he turned and left.

 Kassie and Chiadika placed their bags on the wooden table. Immediately Chiadika took off his clothes and went in to bath, while Kassie opened their bags to check if most of their belongings were still intact, and hadn’t been tampered with by road immigration. Most especially, the two thousand dollars she had wrapped in a toilet roll and then in a black nylon safely tucked deep inside the panties section of her luggage, the fifty thousand naira spare change she spread around in different pockets of her denim jeans intended for final run around and settling down. Those were her home and abroad money she managed to scrap and put in place in time for her travel, a thousand dollars was for the part payment of school fees until she could run around for the rest, three hundred dollars for a proper place to stay and the rest dollars plus change from the spare naira she had kept for moving about was for feeding and pocket money, it was a rock solid plan to kick start life in Ghana.

 Chiadika came out of the bathroom and Kassie went in to have hers. There was a knock on the door. When Chiadika opened it, it was a short dark skinned lady dressed in all white with steaming plates of rice and a big bottle of cold water- she said it was from Mr. Kobi. Chiadika took it from her, thanked her and then closed the door shut.

 Chiadika was tired and hungry, the bath had cooled and refreshed his strength and now what he needed was a hot a plate of food like the one he had in front of him, he wasted no time in eating up the plate of rice, although the stew left a nauseating taste in his mouth—but it was much better than the jollof rice served in the luxurious bus on the road trip to Ghana, or the corn biscuits and packet juice he got as dessert. After he ate and was done, Chiadika swished his mouth with cold water and relaxed in bed, he took out his blackberry and tried to chat and tell his friends all about his journey but there was no network—he kept it at the back of his mind to find a way to subscribe the next day—instead he plugged in the phone and fell asleep shortly after Kassie got out of the bathroom and he explained where the food plates came from.

 After Kassie got dressed, she called their mother, Ugonna, in Nigeria to inform her of their arrival- the phone rang continuously on speaker until there was a click at the end and Ugonna’s breathing and craggy sleepy voice sounded from the phone speaker

 “Hello? Nne?” a stream of questions followed shortly “Ke kwani Nne, how are you people, have you found a place to stay even if it is just for the night, where is Chiadika? Have you people eaten?”

 Kassie answered the questions one after the other, she told Ugonna about their journey all the way down to the hotel room they were in, and she told her about the food and her plans to eat after she dropped the call.

“Thank that man, Kobe, thank him very well for me for what he did for the both of you” Ugonna said

“How are you?” Kassie asked her, “what about my other siblings how they are doing?”

“We are fine, don’t worry about us, yesterday Keneike went and fought one boy at the football field and they all beat him and chased him back home, they threw stones at him and called him swamp man. I don’t know what I would do with that boy everyday different trouble, I want to focus on the smaller one here, and I need money to at least…” Ugonna stopped when she heard Kassie heaved a sigh, “Sorry Nne, don’t mind me, let me leave you to rest on your first night, I’m sure you must be very tired.”  Ugonna made a promise to call the next day and dropped the call.

 Kassie dropped the phone on the table, she opened her plate of food and tried eating but couldn’t, she didn’t have any appetite. She turned off the room lights and lay on the bed to sleep but she still couldn’t, her mind wandered to many places, Nigeria, her family back home, this new country she had just found herself in, what the future held in stockpile for her, what sort of hardship living in the new country would bring, what the way forward was. Soon she drifted so far in thoughts that she found sleep and wafted off.

THE END

Words Translation -:

Toutou- (Cote D’ivoire) two shilling, two pence

Ashawo – (Twi,) from Ghana, means slut, prostitute

Changie – (Igbo) Change

Ya (yaa) – (Igbo) She or they

Nne – (Igbo) sister, daughter, woman

Wuo – (Igbo) Turn into

Chassis – Brand new

Sabi – (Yoruba) Knowledgeable, street smart

Engunje – (Yoruba) bribe

Soji –    (Yoruba) Smart, wake up

Gidigbo – (Yoruba) African Martial art, wrestling

Wahala – (Yoruba) Unrest, Problem

Abeg – (Yoruba) Plea

Danfo – (Yoruba) Bus

Iyawo – (Yoruba) Wife

Bawo – Greeting (How are you?)

Johnny-just-come – Newbie

Chale – (Twi) Friend

Originally published at Kalahari Review

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